Ireland is a hiker’s paradise destination from short walks to strenuous mountain range trails. It is known around the world for its spectacular scenery, unique natural beauty and its variety of outdoor activities. If you are planning a holiday or simply want to explore nature with a great hike, Ireland is the country for you. However, due to the current health situation, you can no longer hike as before. Several factors need to be taken into account and that changes depending on the health situation in each region and in accordance with the advice of the Irish government. Here we give you some tips for hiking during the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Respect the Sanitary Rules Even in Nature
We strongly advise you to be vigilant about the social distancing of 2 metres during your hike. Social distancing isn’t just about protecting yourself, it’s about protecting those most at risk of contracting COVID-19 and experiencing extreme symptoms. You are very unlikely to catch the virus by walking, running, or cycling in front of someone at a distance of 6 feet, even if the person comes close to you for a second because you are not in contact with them long enough. If you meet another group, step to one side to let them pass or walk-in a single file line. Please pay attention to and observe all the measures specified in your region.
It is important to wash your hands for 20 seconds when possible. Alternatively, when hiking in mountainous terrain, use hand gel or a cleansing wipe before and after meals and after using the toilet. Walkers will need to be self-sufficient when it comes to good hand hygiene.
2. Choose a Suitable Route
When organizing, the choice and knowledge of the route is important in order to be independent during your hike. Try to choose the path and route closest to your home to avoid long journeys and stops. Staying in your local region will put less strain on smaller communities in trail-side towns, so make sure your itinerary matches your abilities.
3. Organize Your Hike
Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is essential to organize your entire hike ahead of time in order to avoid contact with people you meet and risk the spread of the virus.
If you can get around by bike or walk to the starting point of your hike it will avoid congestion in parking lots. Also, avoid hiking in a large group, in favour of a few people in your household for this experience. For hiking in the Republic of Ireland, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the maximum group size is 4 people for people outside your household.
4. Prepare All the Equipment
For equipment, make sure you have everything you need. Do not share or handle clothing and equipment with anyone outside of your household. In addition to your clothes, shoes, compass and a first aid kit with all the items necessary to be independent in the event of minor incidents (compresses, dressings, disinfectant, cream in case of a cut, etc.), add a hand gel or a means of washing your hands and face masks in case the physical distance is not possible (emergencies for example).
Don’t hesitate to prepare your meals in advance and take all the necessary food and water for the activity. To take pictures, use your own camera or phone: take a selfie or have a friend take one using their device and send it to you later. Keep your cameras and other portable equipment to yourself and clean.
Preparing all your equipment in advance will allow you to be as autonomous and independent as possible during your hike.
5. Choose the Least Crowded Hiking Spots
Coastal walks on the Wild Atlantic Way and the Giant’s Causeway Coast are essential starting points for magnificent views. Both routes run along the coast and are very varied, with mountainous paths. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, we also recommend that you use less frequented sites. If you want to hike Ireland’s national parks, we strongly recommend that you hike outside of peak hours to minimize the chances of encountering others on your walks. You will encounter less crowds if you go out mid-week or off-peak like early in the morning. Plan ahead and use trails during quieter times like in the morning or afternoon.
Here Are Some Sites We Recommend:
- Mangan Loop, Tinahely, Co. Wicklow
- The Mangan’s Lane Loop in Tinahely, County Wicklow is an 8km loop trail that takes approximately 90 minutes. Tinahely is a small village nestled in the valley of the River Derry in the southern part of the Wicklow Mountains. One of the advantages of Tinahely’s hiking trails is the choice of routes you can take, providing a walking experience for all skill levels. You will pass through a variety of terrain, from quiet country roads to forests to open mountains.
- Lough Easkey, Co. Sligo
- The Lough Easkey Loop on the Wild Atlantic Way is a secluded, exposed walk of incredible beauty. This 6 km loop takes approximately 2 hours to complete. The walk takes you along the shore of Lough Easkey along the lake’s tracks, lanes and back roads.
- Killeshandra Loop, County Cavan
- The Killeshandra loop is a 6 km marked trail, forest trails, lake shore and public road. This loop takes around 2 hours to complete. It is a very good choice in the Cavan region.